Scandalous Grace

Scandalous Grace
Mark 2:14-17
“And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The religious leaders were shocked and offended.  Jesus was beginning to gain a large following among the ordinary people in the Galilean area but seemed uninterested in interacting with the religious elite.  This was offensive and troubling to them.  Anyone claiming to be a prophet would come first to them to obtain their approval. They were the religious leaders of the people and guardians of the requirements of the law.  Yet Jesus did not spend time interacting with them.  He continued to shun them in favor of the dregs and outcasts of society.  The more he ministered, the more they became offended.  

Undoubtedly, they were both surprised and deeply troubled when Jesus called Matthew to be one of his disciples.  Tax collectors were more than just collectors of taxes; they were collaborators with Rome and seen as betrayers to the people of Israel. A Jew who became a tax collector for Rome was disqualified from being a witness in court, expelled from the synagogue, and a cause of disgrace for his whole family.  Because Matthew was a Jew collecting taxes for Rome, the religious leaders were offended.  To further compound their dismay, Jesus and His disciples spent the day with Mathew’s fellow tax collectors and ate a meal with them. A respectable Jew, especially one who was a religious leader, would never stoop to such a level.  Previously, we saw Jesus come in contact with a leper, which was unthinkable to a Jew.  But for Jesus to be in contact with tax collectors was even more offensive. A leper was unclean physically, but the tax collector was regarded as unclean spiritually.  
In response to their condemnation, Jesus reminds the Jews that it is not the healthy that need a doctor, but those who are ill.  The individual with leprosy needed a physical doctor to heal him of his physical disease, and Matthew and the sinners needed a spiritual doctor to heal them of their spiritual disease.  This is why Jesus came.  In verse 17, Jesus points out that He has come to bring spiritual healing. For Jesus to avoid the sinner would be equivalent to a doctor spurning the sick.  It would be unfaithful to his calling and mission.

The grace that was so scandalous to the Jews is the grace that brings hope to us today. The irony is that it was the sinners who were most responsive to Christ’s ministry.  As Paul points out, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20-21).  Like the religious leaders confronting Jesus, often in our lives or the lives of others, we look at the severity of the sin.  When we look at the sin in others, we become condemnatory.  We see the depth of their sin and see them beyond hope.  We can also fall into the same pit of despair in our own lives.  We look at our past, and we feel the weight of our sin so that salvation seems unattainable.  However, Christ (and Paul) reorients our perception.  Instead of looking at the depth of our sin or the sin of others, we are to focus on the depth of God’s grace.  His grace is infinite and, therefore, always sufficient, always available, and always restorative.  The guilt of sin never exceeds the offer of divine grace and forgiveness.  All that is required of us is to see our sin, seek His forgiveness, and surrender to His transforming power in our lives.  In reality, it was not the tax collectors and sinners who were beyond the hope of salvation.  The self-righteous religious leaders failed to recognize their need for grace.  They were confident in their own righteousness, and as a result, they would face the judgment of God for their sin. The question we must ask ourselves is, which group do we belong to?  Do we see our sin and guilt in desperate need of forgiveness, or do we see ourselves as righteous and not needing God’s grace?
If you feel overwhelmed by your sins' guilt, Christ offers you hope through His grace. All you need to do is ask!

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